Travel

The Best, Most Beautiful Hikes in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Published On 06/16/2015 Published On 06/16/2015
Upper Chapel Falls
Upper Chapel Falls | Craig Sterken/Shutterstock

If there’s just one reason why Michigan summers are so great it’s... um, one of these 16 things... but they also give you the perfect excuse to go hiking in the Upper Peninsula, where you’ll find hundreds of miles of trails through old-growth forests and along rugged shorelines, as well as scenic lakes and 200 or so named waterfalls. Here are the 13 UP hikes you can’t miss...

Nicole Rupersburg/Thrillist

Porcupine Mountains Escarpment Trail

Ontonagon
There are numerous great trails throughout the Porkies, all interconnected, but the Escarpment Trail is easily the most well-known and the most dramatic. The somewhat challenging 4-mile trail (one-way!) takes you along a ridge with three peaks: Cuyahoga, Cloud, and Miscawabic. Lake Superior is on one side, and the popular Lake of the Clouds is on the other, at the bottom of 400ft cliff drops.

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Brockway Mountain

Copper Harbor
Brockway Mountain Drive is a roughly 9-mile scenic drive to the top of the 1,328ft (720ft above Lake Superior) mountain. At the top of the mountain, you'll have a panoramic view of Lake Superior, Lake Medora, Mount Baldy, Lake Bailey, Copper Harbor, and Eagle Harbor, but it's also worth getting out of your car along the drive at the Brockway Mountain Audubon Sanctuary trailhead, a moderate and clearly marked 1.6-mile trail through the woods on the east side of the mountain.

Mount Baldy

Eagle Harbor
Hate the crowds at Brockway Mountain? Skip them and head to Mount Baldy, where the lack of a paved road to the top and a 3-mile uphill hike to the summit means that only the truly committed hikers make the trek.

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Bare Bluff

Copper Harbor
One of the more strenuous hikes in the UP, Bare Bluff is located on the southern shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula near Lac La Belle, rising to a 600ft peak above water. The Russell and Miriam Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary there is a 3-mile trail loop that climbs up the side of the mountain, often alongside sheer cliffs hundreds of feet above the forest floor, up and down rockslides and dry waterfalls to the summit, offering beautiful views of Bete Grise Bay and the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The loop itself is equivalent to a 30-story climb, and many parts of this trail are not clearly marked, so it’s is not ideal for inexperienced hikers.

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Hunter's Point Park

Copper Harbor
Stroll along the Lake Superior shoreline at this preservation project park. If you're into flora and fauna, there's plenty of both to spot, or if you just want to go play on the black basalt rocks -- the oldest kind of rock on the planet -- that's cool too.

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Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary

Copper Harbor
Located on the Keweenaw Peninsula just outside of Copper Harbor is the 508-acre Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Some of said pines are over 600 years old and are between 130 and 150ft tall, representing some of the last remaining old-growth virgin white pines in the Midwest. Two different trail loops run through this living museum; both are about a mile long and are well-marked, easy hikes with much of the trails covered in boards, creating a "foot bridge" through the forest. The Sanctuary is also home to some 85 bird species for bird-watchers.

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Canyon Falls

Baraga
If you're driving along US 41 between Houghton and Marquette, stop at the Canyon Falls Roadside Park to stretch your legs on the 2-mile out-and-back level trail with some boardwalk areas to view the "Grand Canyon of the Upper Peninsula," the 15ft Canyon Falls and gorge. It's easy, quick, and scenic, for those who want the full hiking experience without all that... er, hiking.

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Sugarloaf Mountain

Marquette
Sugarloaf Mountain was formerly a ski resort and is now a destination for hikers, wildlife-watchers, and view-seekers. There are two ways to climb the half-mile up: the easy way is comprised of 304 wooden steps, while the hard way is up through the rugged mountain forest.

There are several North Country system trails -- 4,600 miles of trails that stretch across seven states -- that intersect on Sugarloaf Mountain; if you take the largely unmarked hard way and are not familiar with the area or the trails, it would be most helpful to have a map and compass handy. The trail is marked, but markers are spaced few and far between and are often difficult to spot. The easy trail is ideal for beginners and families (so long as no one has problems with stairs). At the peak is a large wooden deck with multiple sections for checking out the 360-degree view of Lake Superior, Downtown Marquette, and the surrounding forests.

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Wetmore Landing and Little Presque Isle

Marquette
The Sugarloaf Mountain parking area is also the trailhead for Wetmore Landing, which offers a relatively easy 1.6-mile trail from the beach and along the Lake Superior shoreline to Little Presque Isle. There are rocks and tree roots, but the path is very clearly marked and there are few obstructions.

Nicole Rupersburg/Thrillist

Miners Falls

Munising
A gravel path that is 1.2 miles round-trip will take you to Miners Falls, where the Miners River drops 50ft over a sandstone outcrop. A wooden staircase will take you 77 steps down to the lower viewing platform for the falls. The whole thing is more of a leg stretch than a hike, but it sure is a nice view for minimal time and physical commitment.

Nicole Rupersburg/Thrillist

Mosquito Falls

Munising
Rocks National Lakeshore features 90 miles of trails that run through its 73,000 acres along Lake Superior's south shoreline. They vary in length and difficulty; hikers can go out for a couple of hours or for days at a time.

The Chapel Basin-Mosquito Beach area of Pictured Rocks offers a number of different trails and scenic sights, among them Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock, Chapel Lake, Spray Falls, Mosquito Beach, and Mosquito Falls.

To get there, you have to drive five miles down the all-dirt Chapel Rd. At the edge of the parking lot are the trailheads for the Mosquito Beach area on the left and the Chapel Basin area on the right. If you follow the left, you will hike through the forest .6 of a mile to the picturesque Mosquito Falls, which cascade over 8ft shelves of black rock. Follow the trail for another 1.6 miles and you’ll wind up at Mosquito Beach.

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Chapel Falls and Chapel Rock

Munising
If you start at that same trailhead as Mosquito Falls but turn right instead of left, you will follow a wide, flat trail 1.3 miles to Chapel Falls. You can go on another 1.8 miles from there to the highly Instagrammable Chapel Rock, and another 1.6 miles from that point to Spray Falls. The trails are easy and well-marked, though it's a long day if you decide to go all the way out and back.

You can also hike the 4.4-mile trail from Mosquito Beach to Chapel Beach, which runs alongside the 200ft sandstone bluffs on Lake Superior -- the "Pictured Rocks."

Flickr/James Marvin Phelps

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Paradise
Probably the most majestic of Michigan's waterfalls and one of the largest falls east of the Mississippi, the Upper Tahquamenon Falls drop nearly 50ft and are more than 200ft across. A .4-of-a-mile paved pathway leads to the Upper Falls from a parking lot, but there is a four-mile hiking trail along the Tahquamenon River to the Lower Falls for those looking for a bit more outdoor adventure. There are a total of 25 miles of hiking trails throughout the 52,000 acres of wilderness in this state park.  
 
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Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance writer covering food, travel, arts, culture, and what-have-you. She winters in Las Vegas and summers in Detroit, as does anybody who's anybody. Her favorite activities include drinking beer and quoting Fight Club.

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